We have largely got used to using smartphones and digital applications in our everyday life. With Industry 4.0, there is now an increasing trend towards digitalization in industrial environments. Bystronic’s Head of Development (CTO) Dr. Jürgen Hohnhaus talks about the benefits and the vision behind this development.
Interview with Mr. Dr. Jürgen Hohnhaus, CTO und Member of Management Committee, Bystronic Group
Mr. Hohnhaus, Bystronic recently launched the ByStar Fiber laser cutting system. How much Industry 4.0 is packed into this product?
J.H.:A great deal. The ByStar Fiber is “Industry 4.0 ready”. Our fiber laser is based on a completely new control system. This enables the cutting processes on the machine to be measured and analyzed using a hitherto unattainable sensor technology. This provides us with data that will help us make laser cutting intelligent.
"The goal of Industry 4.0 is the digital penetration of industrial business fields in order to improve the efficiency of production processes."
In the media, Industry 4.0 is currently a much-discussed topic. There are many different interpretations of it. What exactly does Bystronic understand by Industry 4.0?
J.H.:The goal of Industry 4.0 is the digital penetration of industrial business fields in order to improve the efficiency of production processes. In our case, we are talking about sheet metal processing. People, machines, and manufacturing parts that are involved in this process all become interlinked. An additional factor apart from this interconnection is artificial intelligence. This allows intelligent networks to be created within which machines will learn and optimize themselves in the future. Humans participate in these networks. This allows them to access information about their machines and parts regardless of time and location, assess situations, and intervene where necessary.
“People, machines, and manufacturing parts that are involved in this process all become interlinked. An additional factor next to this interconnection is artificial intelligence.”
Does this mean that these networks create greater transparency?
J.H.:Precisely. With Industry 4.0, customers receive more transparency regarding their production processes. They see when and where their orders are being processed. How far their production parts have progressed. Another benefit of Industry 4.0 is increased flexibility. In addition to large series of identical parts, Industry 4.0 enables customers to offer and manufacture small batch sizes with individual parts in a very short time. In the future, in addition to mass products, this will enable individual parts and small series to be produced at competitive prices. Intelligent system support makes it much simpler to adapt workflows and thus to respond more rapidly to the customers’ requirements.
“With Industry 4.0, customers increase the transparency of their production processes. They see when and where their orders are being processed. And how far their production parts have progressed.
”Industry 4.0 comprises various aspects. Where is Bystronic setting priorities?
J.H.:I see four areas of focus. The first is automation, which will be augmented with artificial intelligence. The next step is the interconnection of the intelligent machines with the production parts to form a digitally integrated factory, the “smart factory”. The third area is big data. That is, the question as to how we can ensure the secure handling and meaningful analysis of data. The fourth topic are new service solutions, which are made possible through the advanced data analysis possibilities.
“In addition to our machine tools, we are increasingly transforming into a service provider. This means that we are taking the path from the machine to an intelligent process.”
Is the aim of Industry 4.0 exclusively about building a smart factory, or are selective individual solutions for users also feasible?
J.H.:With Industry 4.0 we are currently in an evolution process. This means that the development of new solutions is taking place gradually. For the user, the first step is to install machines that are ready for a digital network. This makes it possible to integrate a variety of software solutions, depending on the customer’s requirements. These can be expanded on a step-by-step basis. Like pieces of a puzzle, which, when put together, result in the complete picture – the smart factory. An example of a selective individual solution that offers an entry to increased process transparency is the Observer.
Where does Industry 4.0 begin for Bystronic customers?
J.H.:It already begins when our customers prepare an offer for their customers in order to tender for an order. A successful offer requires a lot of know-how. Imagine your company receives an invitation to tender. You have received a sample part or a drawing. Now, what is important is to quickly assess: Which process steps are necessary? How long will it take to manufacture the part? And what price can you offer?
What solutions does Bystronic already offer in order to support customers with the preparation of offers?
J.H.:Today we are already able to simulate the process costs and manufacturing time of parts. This enables our customers to define the costs for an order in advance, which they can use to prepare the offer. In the future, we want to process this simulation data in digital form in order to subsequently automatically generate an offer. This will make our customers’ offer process even faster.
The customer’s parts have been cut. The next step is bending. What innovations does Bystronic offer here?
J.H.:We are currently transferring the Detection Eye function, which we have already successfully implemented on our laser cutting systems, to bending. This function recognizes the tools in the press brake’s upper beam. It detects whether the operator has selected the correct tools and whether they have been inserted properly. If not, the function displays a message and suggests what corrections the operator must carry out.
Let us look ahead a little. How will Bystronic’s solutions change over the foreseeable future?
J.H.:In addition to our machine tools, we are increasingly transforming into a service provider. This means that we are taking the path from the machine to an intelligent process. The transformation has already started. For example with the Observer and other software solutions. These services complement our customers’ workflows and expand the performance spectrum of our machines.
On which of the customers’ operations will this have the greatest impact?
J.H.:Their logistics and order management in the back office will experience the greatest changes. Thanks to digital solutions, the workflows in these areas will become more transparent, more predictable, and thus also leaner. This will enable our customers to avoid unnecessary process steps in the future.
“In the future, laser cutting systems will autonomously monitor and control themselves. We have already taken the first step in this direction. Our latest products are ‘Industry 4.0 ready’.”
To conclude, an outlook on EuroBLECH, which will have a strong focus on the topic of Industry 4.0 this year. What can customers expect from Bystronic?
J.H.:This year at EuroBLECH, Bystronic will unveil something unique that focusses fully on Industry 4.0. But we are not talking about isolated solutions: we will present our customers an interlinked, intelligent overall solution for successful sheet metal processing.
Photos: Manuel Stettler